Daniel L. Davis
Security, Middle East
The best thing the United States can do to facilitate developments in Iran is to let the Iranians reform their country from within.
The recent protests springing up in Iran are the most serious to afflict the Shia government in Teheran since 2009. They represent an increasing desire, especially among those born after the 1979 revolution, to see their government make fundamental changes, most pointedly to their economy. If these political forces eventually succeed, then the threat Iran poses to the region could decrease markedly.
The best thing the United States could do to facilitate this development, however, is to let the people of Iran reform their country from within. Americans are famous for our “can do” attitude—remaining passive cuts across our grain—but for a real change in the Iranian government to take place, the pressure must come from within without any ”help” from outside interests.
The core issue in protests that began in June 2009 was the disputed presidential election primarily between incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and two main challengers, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Masses of people believed the results of the election were badly rigged by the ruling mullahs, claiming that the real winner was Mousavi.
The mullahs crippled the protests by shutting down social media and phone service, and in February 2011, they imprisoned Mousavi and Karroubi and their families. Once those two men were no longer available to lead, the people had no one around whom to center the movement, and it died
This time, however, the uprising wasn’t spawned by a single event, but had been building for a long time.
In October 2015 when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (plus Germany), President Hassan Rouhani promised Iranians that they would see an improvement in the economy, more jobs and better salaries as a result of the lifted sanctions. In 2015, a Business Insider report stated that “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said after he elected as a president that job creation is the most significant issue in the future of the country’s economy.”